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Full text of "NightRider"

79

objects of the room, the deputies leaning over to rummage
in boxes or to pull open drawers that would rasp with sudden
sharpness in the night stillness, and always, just beyond the
direct ring of the lamp's rays, it seemed, the fixed and intent
eyes watching from the tumbled bed or pallet. In two cabins
babies began to cry as soon as the lamp was lighted, falling
quickly into rhythmical, gasping sobs that gave no promise
of stopping. At the second, when the child began crying,
Mr. Munn turned to the woman and exclaimed, " My God,
can't you stop it!" Without taking her gaze from his face,
the woman in a blind, groping motion gathered the baby to
her and thrust the nipple of her breast into its mouth.

At the eleventh cabin they found it. Burke straightened
up suddenly from a box in which he had been fumbling, and
exclaimed, "By Jesus!" very softly, and, "By Jesus!" He
turned about, and laid the knife on the table in the full light
of the lamp. Monroe, seeing it, glanced sharply at the negro
man standing there by the table, and then took a couple of
steps toward the door, to block it. The negro looked down at
the object, for the moment dispassionately and without more
than casual interest.

Mr. Munn picked up the knife, and, bending toward the
flame of the lamp, turned it in his hands. " That looks like
it," he observed; and then Burke seemed to be closer to the
negro man than before.

"Mr. Monroe," Mr. Munn said, "I'll be obliged if you'll
get that other knife. It's in my saddlebag."

Monroe slipped out of the door.

Mr. Munn continued to turn the knife slowly over and
over in his hands, handling it gingerly and contemplatively.
" Is this yours?" he asked the negro man, but without looking
at him, his eyes fixed instead on the knife.

" I been having it round here," the man admitted.

" You been having it round?" Mr. Munn echoed.

"Yassuh."

" Long?" Mr. Munn still did not look at the man, looking
at the knife, which he turned over and over in his hand.